Weekly Email 2 May 2010

Posted on: Sunday 2nd May 2010

“Noises off…”
by Fr Alan Gyle, Vicar

The plight of the Prime Minister, speaking unawares into a live radio microphone on Thursday, reminded me of the fate of an old Scottish clergyman who – living in retirement and helping out as an honorary assistant priest in a rather ‘sophisticated’ English parish (with the sort of church that has all the latest technology, not least radio microphones) – thought it wise, before the lengthy liturgy, to pop into the smallest room, just in case… One inadvertent push of the button on his radio microphone control left the whole congregation ‘flushed’ with embarrassment as the sound of cascading waters had quickly to be drowned by a hastily improvised prelude on the organ. I heard about the incident from his own lips when, visiting to preach, he handed me a similar contraption to pin to my cassock: “be very careful!” he said.

In the world of theatre, “noises off” is the stage direction that designates sound from the wings or elsewhere – indeed anywhere but from the stage. Sometimes they’re intended: off-stage sound effects calculated to add something to the on-stage plot. More often, “noises off” are entirely unintentional – and preventing them is one of the reasons why stage managers are always (in my experience) such severe, serious people. Serious with good reason: the whole art of theatre has to do with luring the spectator into a credulous world in which what is being created and played out – artificially – on stage envelopes those who are watching so that they ‘forget’, and nothing is more calculated to destroy the illusion in a moment than someone tripping over a stage brace or prop!

Of course even in a political arena now obsessed with the arts of performance and presentation, the issue for the PM (as for all the candidates in the election) is not quite the same. What concerns us about politicians is not that someone might ‘drop a clanger’ and break the spell – but is rather that we hope and expect that there is a connection between what is said and done ‘aloud’ within the public’s eye and earshot, and what is said and done privately. Having trust in public figures means being able to know there’s a connection between behaviour in the public and private realms: something to do with integrity.
That’s not just an issue for public figures, of course. We’ve all said and done things we later realize were silly and misguided… As Alexander Pope said, “to err is human…”. Thankfully for us he knew also (and continued the poem)“…to forgive is divine!” We all go off piste and make mistakes, and Prime Ministers are no more immune to that than the rest of us; the real question – and this for all of us – is whether, and to what extent, the pattern of our living is marked by integrity between what we present ourselves to be, and what we actually are.
Bank Holiday Weekend

Sunday 2nd May
At 09:00:  Family Mass
Celebrant & Preacher Fr Richard Coles, with Godly Play for children led by Sarah Bender.
At 11:00:  Solemn Mass
Missa brevis in D K.194 – W.A. Mozart
Achieved is the glorious work – J. Haydn
Praise ye the Lord (David’s Songs) – William Albright
Organ voluntary: Hamburger Totetanz – Guy Bovet (b.1942)
Celebrant: Fr Andrew Sloane, Rector of St Paul’s K-Street, Washington
Preacher: Fr Richard Coles
At 13:00: Parish Lunch in the Hall
Guest chef: Iago Griffith (£8.00 donation per head)

At 18:00: Evening Prayer (said)

On Bank Holiday Monday Morning Prayer wil be said privately; Mass is, as usual, at 18:00.

The Week Ahead
Wednesday at 18:45: The Wednesday Evening Service
with Fr Richard Coles
followed by refreshments.
Low Masses daily at 18:00 (12:00 on Saturday)
Morning Prayer said daily at 09:00
The clergy are available daily for conversation and counsel by appointment; please ring the Parish Office on 020 7201 9999.

Next Sunday at St Paul’s:
At 09:00:  Family Mass
Celebrant & Preacher Fr Richard Coles, with Godly Play for children
At 11:00:  Solemn Mass
Celebrant: Fr Andrew Norwood
Preacher: Fr Richard Coles
At 18:00:  Evening Prayer (said)